Stepping from the helm deck to the 44-square-foot cockpit, you pass between twin aft-facing crew seats, the lids to a 132-quart fish box located on the starboard side, and a 35-gallon livewell to port, which is fed by a 1,100 gallon per hour raw-water pump. The monster 265-quart fish box on the transom has a removable divider to separate baits from the catch, if needed. All boxes are insulated and drain overboard.
The standard hardtop comes with four side-mounted rod holders, and a topside rocket launcher can be added. This supplements a brace of rod holders in the gunwales with more racks underneath. Cockpit coaming pads and toe rails are also included on the list of standard features, along with spreader lights and LED cockpit lighting. A two-drawer tackle center is located adjacent to the port crew seat, while another tackle cabinet is underneath the helm seat. In fact, there are so many cubbyholes, nets and usable compartments for a boat of this size that most crews will have trouble filling them all.
Taking cues from their larger express models, Grady engineers tweaked the walkaround design they first introduced 34 years ago when they launched this latest model. For starters, the expanded length allowed room for an optional 4 kW diesel generator, a convenience requested by canvassed Grady owners. It comes with a 12-gallon tank that should provide ample juice for a long weekend on the hook.
The hull is also taller on the 290 than it was on Grady's previous 28-footer. This didn't change the walkaround space topside. It's still easy to walk to the bow for anchoring, docking or fighting a stubborn fish. But that extra height did raise the cabin headroom (at 6'3" tall, I had room to spare) and gives it a spacious feeling.
Starting with an 81-inch long forward V-berth, the cabin is arranged with a private head to starboard that includes a sink, standup shower, marine head with macerator and 10-gallon holding tank. The freshwater capacity is 32 gallons with a 6-gallon hot-water heater. A roomy aft berth is located below the helm deck.
The port galley features Corian countertops, a sink, microwave, refrigerator and electric stove with touch-pad controls. Classic accents include a teak dinette table, plus a teak and holly sole. A stereo/CD system and flat-screen TV/DVD player are available entertainment options.
As you'd expect from a company with this much longevity, the Chesapeake 290 is built to handle whatever Mother Nature cares to dish out. To say it's overbuilt is an understatement. The hull and deck are all hand-laid, and quality components like through-bolted 316- grade stainless-steel deck hardware are used throughout. Other examples of quality construction - like hatches that fit snugly without rubbing and organized wiring harnesses and rigging - are more reasons why the company consistently earns high customer-satisfaction ratings.
If you're in the market for a well-designed cabin boat that's built by folks who love to fish themselves, check out the 290 Chesapeake. Your family will thank you for it.
Grady-White Chesapeake 290
w/ twin Yamaha F250 four-stroke outboards
Grady-White Boats ? 252.752.2111 ? www.gradywhite.com